Syria is a problem from which there may be no good solution as there is much confusion and has as many facets as a rare gem, each reflecting hostilities on all the others. Every side of this entanglement fights for their own glorification seeking supremacy. Bashir al-Assad is attempting to prove that he is as worthy to carry the torch of leadership as was his father and to the grand level his deceased brother was expected to bestow on the nation as its President. He is attempting to overcome having been always the lesser son whose superior brother died tragically leaving him as the nation’s second choice. His attempts at overachievement could be diagnosed as some twisted form of Napoleonic Syndrome despite his height but due to his being measured by his father as always coming up short of what a leader should be. Add to the mix there is the Islamic State whose leadership fully believe that they are serving a greater purpose and are the proper leadership of all Islam and that they are defining the religion for every Muslim in the world. Their initial military successes have come to a crashing halt and are starting to find their opposition making valid and strong challenges and taking back territories which the Islamic State had initially conquered. Then there are al-Qaeda and other terror groups fighting representing the Sunni opposition to Alawite rule as it is a form of Shia Islam which they oppose and believe are apostates. There are also the Kurdish militias which are mostly concerned with defending their people and are having the greatest challenge coming from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, who has claimed to be fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist groups but has used the majority of his troops to attack the Kurdish populations. Additionally there are the Iranian forces which mostly consist of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who Iran is backing further with Hezballah terror militias from Lebanon. From time to time these two groups attempt to draw Israel into the war by launching artillery or rockets into the Golan Heights. Israel will return fire when they have a solid set of coordinates on which to return fire and which also do not endanger civilians but, other than these, Israel refuses to be drawn into the fighting. Finally there is Russia who is most interested in retaining their two naval ports which are within the Alawite region of Syria which places them in the position of supporting Bashir al-Assad. The recent presumed bombing of targets with chemical weapons such as Sarin Gas which murdered civilians received a strong attack from the United States on the originating airfield with over fifty Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. This drew a strong rebuke by both al-Assad and Russian President Putin.
By comparison, the remainder of the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) is only slightly less violent and confused. Yemen is also in the midst of a civil war with the Houthis being backed by Iran while Saudi Arabia is supporting the government forces of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Egypt had supported the Saudi Arabian side providing mostly air support but lost faith in the situation and no longer supports anyone in the Yemen civil war. Libya is a complete disaster with tribal forces warring for preeminence while terrorist forces use some contested areas for training recruits readying them for fighting usually elsewhere. At one point al-Qaeda and Islamic State had cleared out territories they used for training but when they came under attack by tribal forces decided to simply leave as they had no reason to take part in the wars in Libya. The Sudan and South Sudan, which declared independence on July 9, 2011, have remained in a state of conflict with the Sudan sending militias forces raiding their southern neighbor as the Sudan has not fully recognized their independence and still believe that most of the people of South Sudan to be infidel or inferiors and see their military actions as a cleansing the territory of enemies of Islam. Somalia continues to be basically without true governance and has become a destabilizing force for its neighboring nations most notably Eretria as well as Kenya and Ethiopia. There are further threats centered on Nigeria with Boko Haram attacking Christian villages and other sites as well as Islamic villages where they kidnap “volunteers” to fight in their Islamic Army. Boko Haram had pledged their allegiance to Islamic State but whether that remains intact is questionable. All of these Islamic disruptions are largely traceable to what was often referred to as the Arab Spring which largely destabilized the entire area of MENA with the exception of places where there existed strong dictatorial governance such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and Egypt which survived due to the military taking back the control they had lost to the Muslim Brotherhood after President Mubarak was forced from office under direct pressure from United States President Barack Hussein Obama. Iraq is still in a state of unrest with the Sunni and Shia segments of the population still facing difficulties resulting from a premature removal of United States forces by President Obama who was fulfilling a campaign promise sparking a low level of conflict. Meanwhile the Kurds are continuing to provide their own defense and act as if under semi-autonomous rule. Then there is a problem where the developed world has been inundated by refugees from these many conflicts plus increasing unrest and instability in Afghanistan leading to the new United States President, Donald Trump, to impose a temporary ban on immigration from seven nations where vetting to identify terrorist entities has proven difficult. This ban has fallen into court challenge and is still to be resolved but odds are the ban will stay in place for the ninety days while new vetting procedures are finalized.
Allied loosely with Syria and Iran is another problematic location, North Korea. The erratic leadership by Kim Jong Un who has ordered executions of senior officials including his uncle and also ordered the assassination of his half-brother all in the name of national security but actually to secure his position from any challenges. Kim Jong Un has also been petulant and often challenges the United States claiming that he is prepared to reply to any and every provocation by the erratic leadership of who he calls the nation’s greatest enemy. With the recent attack on the Syrian airfield both Kim Jong Un and Bashir al-Assad have denounced the United States as being imperialistic, colonial and using false excuses to try and extend the autocratic rule of the United States over more of the world through many varied and devious means. Both leaders have recently threatened to attack the United States or its forces and allies wherever and whenever possible and as necessitated by the warlike actions of the United States. The most violent of threats have come from North Korea and have been taken seriously as by many measures, Kim Jong Un is considered to be irrational and possibly not entirely rational and sane. The latest episode is currently playing out as the United States has diverted an aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and her strike group from harboring in Australia and is having them head towards the Korean Peninsula passing through the western Pacific. Kim Jong Un has raised the specter of a nuclear strike against the aggressor United States if a posture of war should continue and claims to be watching closely any aggressive behavior by the United States and its allies.
Add to this the threats by Syria and the displeasure shown by Russian President Putin and there are quite a number of signals which could be interpreted seriously wrong and any one could have devastating consequences. Needless to say, such unrest around the world, nerves frayed and on edge and troops moving and shots being taken on two separate fronts, one in the western Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan, East China Sea, Yellow Sea and possibly the Bay of Korea while the other is in the Mediterranean Sea, the world is balanced on a razor’s edge unlike anything since the end of the Cold War. We are a far cry from Cuban Missile Crisis stage but the world need take a deep breath and calm itself before somebody somewhere misreads intents and starts something which could quickly fly out of control and lead to serious sets of actions, reactions and counter reactions ending who knows where. Add in the increased amount of terrorism and rising crime rate in much of Europe and that simply adds another tinderbox to the sparks and electrical arcing from friction and frayed wires on too many fronts. You know things are tense when Israel is seemingly a singular place where the level of unrest could be considered calm, at least this far into the year. Being nervous is seemingly in fashion for world leaders currently and that is never a good sign. We need to remember that it was the assassination of a little known Austrian Archduke named Fred, well, you’re right, Ferdinand, but I bet his friends called him not Fred but Archduke Fred, which started the War to End All Wars. That War later was renamed World War I as it led kind of directly to World War II and if there ever should be a World War III and the human race survives, it will be traced in some means to World War II and thus World War I. If we were honest, we would realize that one could trace all warfare back to Cain’s Murder of Abel if we really tried, so don’t be too complacent, the world leadership sure has not been of late. We have too many people thinking they should rule the world or they already rule the world and all of them are mistaken, or at least we had best hope they all realize such. They won’t and we will all be the worse off for it.
Beyond the Cusp